Bulletin 14 - July 1981: Editorial



Editorial

There is a growing awareness among Gulf governments of the need to plan a strategy for the protection of the environment. Kuwait has set up a regional council to cope with the hazards of oil pollution at sea and town planners generally now recognize the necessity of providing clean residential areas set apart from the industrial appendages of modern society. Major town councils in the region are investing heavily in a policy of 'greening' urban areas by providing parks, lawns, flower beds and shelterbeds on a large and unprecedented scale. Nowhere is this more evident than in Abu Dhabi city. Local light industry has been almost totally transferred to Mussafah on the mainland and heavy industrial plant is located away from urban conurbations.

What is the effect of such rapid change on local flora and fauna? Very little research has yet been undertaken although the University is currently conducting a survey of the vegetation of the UAE.

The ENHG has, also, during the past three years, made limited surveys of plants in Abu Dhabi town and surrounding areas, and some interesting plants have come to light. Despite the influx of exotic species for ornamental purposes, and seed inadvertently introduced in fertilizers, the natural vegetation of the town has increased dramatically. Almost any spot that receives water regularly, whether from hose or trickle irrigation, or beneath dripping A/C units, now boasts its share of the local biomass. A whole variety of grasses, and not just the Cyperaceae which was the mainstay of the Island's original plant cover, have sprung up in colonies. Uncommon annuals, recorded elsewhere in Arabia, have begun to appear in quantity in Abu Dhabi over the past couple of years, including such species as Anagallis foemina (Blue pimpernel) and Melitotus indica (Common melilot). Many of these plants are spreading on the fringes of the island, which suggests seed dispersal either by wind or possibly by migrating birds. On newly dredged land, particularly adjoining lagoons and tidal waterways protected from direct wave action, Arthrocnemum perenne (perennial glass wort) is the first species to colonize and quickly dominate.

Unfortunately, it is not all a success story. Recent development has wiped out the only recorded species of Fagonia indica on the island and severely devastated one of the two colonies of Cornulaca aculeata.

However, such a situation in the plant world is not unique to Abu Dhabi and perhaps the gain in same species is worth the loss in others, particularly where the latter is abundant elsewhere in the country. And there is always the possibility of further species adapting and becoming localized. This has already happened at an amazing pace with Tamarix gallica (Common tamarix - the original source of Biblical 'manna').

The Arabian red fox (Vulpes vulpes arabica) has recently been tentatively recorded within the confines of Abu Dhabi island, while the recordings of rare migrant birds continues to increase. While there are no recordings of land snakes yet, there has been a rise in the variety of lizard species noted.

The 'greening' of the island, with the concomitant effect of making the town more habitable, is also having a beneficial effect on local flora and fauna. As the population increases, along with pressures on land use, there is not reason why this aspect of the local environment should not be considered when development plans for the island are drawn up.


 


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